Let’s first talk about what’s changed the least on the inside – the space. It’s a big car so it has a big room, right? Well, not quite. Its beefy body-on-frame construction eats up a lot of space when compared to a similarly-sized SUV with a monocoque chassis. Still, there’s more than ample room for five; it’s just that the last row is best for two people only. Boot space is surprisingly good with all the seats in place; you could get a mid-size suitcase in here, although you will have to haul it high up over the tall sill.
Similarly, access to the cabin is quite a climb up and across the wide door sills. On to the seats, and at the front, you’ll be impressed at how well Tata has crafted the big chairs. The contrast-stitched faux leather feels suitably rich. The cushioning, which uses multi-density foam, is a touch too firm but has the bolstering just where you need it. Our only small grouse is the ‘lump’ around the H-point of the seat which, rather than adding to the support, feels like you’ve sat on your mobile phone. The thick A-pillar can initially cause a blind spot but you learn to look around it. The car’s size and the high driving position can be a little overwhelming until you get used to it.
If you want to replicate the comfort of the front seats in the middle row, you can do so on the top-spec XT trims of the Hexa with its two individual chairs. The only downside of these, apart from reducing the seating capacity to six, is that they don’t tumble forward and this limits maximum boot space; also, it’s easier to just walk between them to access the back row. A conventional split-folding bench comes as standard, but even here, accessing the third row isn’t easy. It has to be slid all the way back to tumble forward properly, and then too its immense weight makes it quite a task. Moreover, the Hexa’s huge rear wheel arches make access tricky, to begin with. Still, when in place, even the bench seat is really comfortable, supportive and spacious, although the middle passenger has a large central AC console to deal with. What does give you that ‘executive’ feeling in the middle row is the window shade that can be raised to keep the heat out quite effectively.
Finally, the third row – it’s quite a comfy place for two. The high floor chassis means you sit a bit knees-up of course, but it’s not as bad as some other ladder-frame SUVs. The advantage of the MPV-like squared-off rear is that head and shoulder room isn’t compromised in the third row. In fact, you can even recline the backrest, and there are also adjustable headrests. There are, of course, air-con vents for all three rows, but the blower is really quite loud, and when fully cranked up it, can overpower even the engine noise.
So, space and comfort are a highlight in the Hexa but you’ll agree that what really wows you about the interior is the quality of materials. It’s on a level thus far unseen from Tata Motors, and for once has a design to match. The dashboard isn’t a dull collection of flat surfaces anymore. The central stack has a variety of colours, textures and surfaces; here too, like with the exterior, excessive chrome has been substituted with other finishes, like piano black and dull grey plastics. Panel gaps are impressively few and even so, the dark colour scheme helps conceal them. The quality of the switchgear is also rather good (there are even knurled knobs and door locks), apart from a few places like the steering control buttons which feel tiny and fiddly to use. The upper glove box also has a terribly tricky-to-use unlock button for its latch.
What is quite an annoyance, though, is the prioritisation of storage spaces in the cabin. Sure, there are generous pockets with bottle holders in every door, and though individually not very big, the dual glove boxes together provide sufficient storage; if you’re in the driver’s seat, you’ll be left wanting. There is just one cup holder and a recess under the central armrest that’s much smaller than you think. So your phone, iPod, wallet, toll tickets and a cup of coffee are all vying for the same tiny spot. Also, there’s no room for a dead pedal in the manual version, so you have no place to rest your clutch foot.